ALICIA (ALICIA KEYS)

RELEASED 18TH DECEMBER 2020

Favourite track: Love Looks Better

This album is full of musical variety with contemporary RnB, Pop Folk and an Alternative sound which was unexpected but worked so well.   

Growing up, we had Alicia Keys on in the car to school a LOT as my mum was a big fan of hers. We would sing along to songs like ‘No One’, ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ and ‘You Don’t Know My Name’. But since then, Alicia Keys has grown as an artist, gone “make-up free”, had a child and been a judge on The Voice. Nearly 20 years on from her debut album Songs In A Minor, Alicia Keys has a new 18-track album out, ALICIA, which no doubt will be full of more contemporary RnB, soulful tracks featuring her famous piano melodies and stunningly raw vocals. The cover art features a grid of 4 photos of Alicia Keys with colourful backgrounds as each photo shows front, back, left and right side of her head.

Image credit: Wikipedia

The first track ‘Truth Without Love’ opens with cinematic strings, harps, Hip-Hop piano and some audio ad-libs. Her vocals come in, delivering the song in a direct way more like spoken word until “what if I was you?” with harmonies. Her vocals are then put through a vintage audio recorder to create an old school effect on top of this orchestral backing. ‘Time Machine’ has these atmospheric, sci-fi waves until is suddenly stops and a harder, Disco beat is brought in with a bass as she sings about “what we’re made of and what we might be”. It’s definitely got a Funk feel to it and will have you moving. The chorus and vocal work and layering here is impressive and beautiful but then contrasts to a very old school, robotic delivery. ‘Authors Of Forever’ has more of a Pop feel to it with a steady beat, song structure and wavey synths in the background. It’s got a repetitive quality to it which allows it to be catchy and the melody is really nice. Diamond Platnumz features on ‘Wasted Energy’ which opens with haunting vocals and then a classic Hip-Hop beat featuring some Reggae elements partnered with some random instruments adding variety in the background.

‘Underdog’ opens like a Pop Folk song with acoustic strumming and storytelling vocals. I didn’t expect this kind of song or genre from Alicia Keys but her vocals work nicely with this style. It’s got a good rhythm to it and very catchy chorus as the message looks at the “underdog” who is working hard hoping to “rise up” eventually. I guess it’s a motivational song to an extent but also one that recognises the ordinary person’s struggles. Sampha features on ‘3 Hour Drive’ has that slow RnB feel with water sounds to create that peaceful, calm atmosphere. I love the way she sings in this one, especially when her vocals deepen. Sampha’s voice compliments the music nicely and adds a nice dimension to the love song. ‘Me x 7’ (ft. Tierra Whack) opens with a light bassline and muted beats. Another beat comes in on top that’s slightly more consistent and fast-paced but the song has got an Indie Pop feel to it. It’s very chill, modern feel to it with the simplicity and dramatic moments. Tierra’s verse was a quirky addition to the song which worked well.

Miguel features on ‘Show Me Love’ which opens with plucked guitar echoing with a slow feel. It’s romantic, sexy and RnB. Miguel’s vocals have that atmospheric feel to them which compliments her more raw vocals nicely. ‘So Done’ (ft. Khalid) opens with strummed dream guitar and both of their vocals. His vocals add a lovely depth to the song whilst hers are crisp. This one is another slow one with a chilled beat. ‘Gramercy Park’ has a clock-style beat, acoustic guitar and vocals that are very story-telling Pop by sound. It’s a song that looks at trying to fulfil someone else’s needs when actually they fall for someone else anyway. The vocal harmonies give it a very old feel which is nice. It’s definitely a sad one that looks at the bitter side of love. ‘Love Looks Better’ begins very strongly with piano, a fast punchy beat and vocal ad-libs in the background. This one would sound amazing in concert as it has that powerful feel and builds that a crowd would love along with a synth melody after the chorus. It’s more Pop in genre for sure but again, Alicia Keys has made it work.

Snoh Aalegra features on ‘You Save Me’ which begins with a true Alicia Keys sound – piano melody and raw vocals full of Soul. This harks back to her older albums for sure which was instantly recognisable. This is a romantic, pretty song full of emotion and stunning female vocals. Jill Scott features on the next song, aptly titled ‘Jill Scott’ which begins with both Jazzy drum kits and video game synths under chill vocals. I can imagine this one being used in a film in a summery scene especially with Jill’s poetry. ‘Perfect Way To Die’ opens with rain sound effects and piano but then the rain stops and gorgeous vocals come in on top of the piano. Strings soon come in just before the chorus which is very powerful and heartfelt. It almost has the structure of a sad song in a musical but it’s lovely. ‘Good Job’ has melancholic strings, repeated piano chords and reverbed vocals echoing over the instruments. Her vocals shine in this one as they do in the last song too. This is another motivational one that encourages people that “the world needs you” and that “you matter” which is a nice message that probably a lot of people right now need to hear.

SiR features on ‘Three House Drive’ taken from A COLORS SHOW (a show that gets artists to perform their raw vocals with a microphone hanging from the ceiling – look it up on YouTube). SiR sounds wonderful on this one. This is essentially just a different take on her other song ‘3 Hour Drive’ earlier. ‘A Beautiful Noise’ (ft. Brandi Carlile) has raw vocals and piano with a strong message on using your voice, solidarity and overall works as a socio-political message on standing together for change. It’s a gorgeous song. The final track is another version of ‘Wasted Energy’ this time featuring Kaash Paige too who really adds another dynamic to the track with smooth vocals.

I would have this album on when going on a long journey as you can appreciate each song as there really is variety on this album.